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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — June 20, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I just finished the home inspection for a single-family home I’m purchasing in South Arlington and there are about 40 items on it. Should I be nervous and consider walking away from the deal? What’s reasonable to expect from the seller?

Answer: Before you freak out about the list of issues the inspector found, I will say that for an older single family home, the number of items the inspector listed in the report is within the normal range of what I see. Unless you’re buying a new home, you should expect the inspection to turn up at least a handful of items that you or the seller should address.

What Is A Home Inspection?

Shortly after ratifying (signed by both parties) a contract to purchase a home, most buyers will (read: should) hire a third party inspector to inspect the entire home and produce a report of any issues, from foundation cracks to missing door stops.

In most cases, the contract to purchase is contingent on the home inspection, meaning the buyer has the right to ask the seller to fix or replace anything and/or provide a cash credit to the buyer at closing. If the buyer and seller are unable to come to an agreement on these requests, the buyer has the right to void the deal.

What Should You Look For?

The goal of an inspection is to ensure that the seller is delivering the property in the condition both sides expected while negotiating the sale price. Generally, you can divide findings into big-ticket items that impact the value of the home and must be addressed and smaller punch-list items that shouldn’t cause much friction. The big-ticket items I look for during an inspection are:

  • Structural flaws
  • Water penetration
  • Safety hazards
  • Inoperability (e.g. air conditioning not working)

System Life Expectancy

You should also determine the age of major systems like the roof, windows, HVAC and water heater prior to making your offer, and verify these are accurate during the inspection. Make sure you’re clear on the expected life expectancy of these systems while you’re negotiating the sales price and factor this information into your offer.

You’ll have a tough time convincing most sellers they’re on the hook for crediting you the cost of a 17-year-old water heater if that information was made available prior to your offer, assuming the system is working.

What Should You Ask For?

As I mentioned earlier, you’ll generally be deciding between asking the seller to handle the fix or replacement of something or asking for them to provide a credit at closing. Often times an inspection agreement includes both – a credit for some items and a request to fix/replace others. Sellers must use licensed contractors and provide works receipts for any work they do.

In general, if something you’re asking for involves personal preference or you want to have control over the quality of the result, it’s best to ask for a credit and handle it yourself. For example, if the deck is falling apart and needs to be replaced, you don’t want the seller managing the design and construction of a new deck so ask for a credit for the replacement cost and make sure you’re getting the deck you want.

Additionally, if the A/C system needs to be replaced and the seller has a mid-grade system, but you’d like to install a top-of-the-line A/C system, it’s best to request a credit equal to the replacement cost for a comparable mid-grade system and invest in the extra cost of a nicer system yourself.

Inspections Don’t Need To Be Contentious

Inspections are one of the most common points of contention between buyers and sellers, but with the right preparation and expectations going in, it can be a smooth process that both sides are happy with.

Like the negotiations you had on the sale contract, the inspection period is also a negotiation. Buyers should expect sellers to address big-ticket items and smaller items that are not classified as improvements/updates.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — June 13, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I really like the architectural style of older homes and feel like I can get a better deal by focusing on homes built more than 30 years ago. Can you provide me some data showing the number of homes old by age and any suggestions you have for a buyer shopping for an older home?

Answer: I also have a personal preference for older homes and love working with clients who have a taste for unique architectural styles! With a bit of vision and a good checklist of things to watch out for, buying an older home can offer real value. To avoid having your dream home turn into a money pit or safety hazard, here are some things you can do prior to purchasing your home to protect yourself:

  • Double up your inspection: You should always have your home inspected by a reputable inspector, but nobody is perfect, so it’s a good investment to have two sets of professional eyes on the home to ensure maximum coverage.
  • Don’t forget your chimney: A general inspection doesn’t include a full chimney inspection and chimneys tend to be one of the least maintained parts of a home, especially if the previous owner didn’t use the fireplace. A damaged chimney can be unsafe and expensive to fix.
  • Check the structural integrity: Old homes have weathered many storms (literally) and the chances they’ve experienced water penetration at some point is high, especially if it sits in a low-lying area where the ground is likely to hold more water. Talk to your inspector about whether or not it makes sense to have a structural engineer do an in-depth study of the foundation and other structural elements of the home.
  • Electrical testing: There’s a good chance an older home has gone through multiple rounds of electrical updates through a few different owners. You never know if a previous owner was a self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades who fancied themselves a public servant by day and electrician by night. For the sake of your family, make sure a professional gets behind the walls to make sure everything looks good (wiring is safe, home is properly grounded, etc).
  • Insulation: One of the biggest downsides to older homes is poor insulation, especially if they still have older windows and roofing. Check the home for cold/hot spots, proper insulation installation, and seals around doors and windows.
  • Termites or other wood-destroying insects: Termite/wood-destroying insect inspections are very cheap and worth every penny. In Northern Virginia, sellers are responsible for repairing any termite damage.
  • Lead testing: In addition to testing for lead paint, you may consider testing your water for elevated levels of lead due to leaching from lead pipes or lead soldering, which wasn’t banned in the US until 1986.

Let’s take a quick look at the age of single-family homes sold in Arlington, by decade, from 2012-2016:

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com. 

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — June 6, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We are planning to sell our home and wondering if the cost of professional staging is worth it. What’s your opinion on staging and are there certain circumstances where you do or do not recommend it?

Answer: I recommend staging for almost every home I sell because it will increase your sale price by more than you spend and help your home sell faster. In fact, it makes such a difference that clients often joke after seeing their decluttered and staged home that they’re considering moving back in!

What Is Staging?

Professional staging is a service used to improve the marketability of a home by arranging rented furniture in certain rooms of a home to maximize the space and visual appeal. Most staging professionals have an interior design background and a large supply of furniture to work with.

Staging is mostly done when a home is vacant, but for sellers occupying the home they’re living in, stagers will also provide consultations on how to best utilize your existing furniture and make suggestions on small add-on items to enhance a space (area rugs, towels, flowers, wall art, etc).

How Much $$$?

Condos can usually be staged for $1,500-$2,500 and townhomes and single family homes generally cost $2,500-$4,000 depending on the number of rooms you stage and quality of furnishings. For high-end real estate, expect to spend $5,000-$10,000. You should plan on spending 0.5-1 percent of your asking price on staging a vacant home.

What Are The Advantages?

  • Better pictures = more interest online = more showing traffic
  • Significantly better showing experience for buyers
  • Empty space looks smaller, staging helps visually increase the size of a room
  • Buyers struggle to visualize how beds, couches, tables, etc will fit
  • Awkward spaces benefit from the design of a professional
  • Clean, organized look increases the sense of a well-maintained home
  • Play to the strengths of a room and distract from its flaws

When Should You Stage?

  • Move-in-ready condition (limited updates/investment required)
  • Vacant
  • Home has been thoroughly cleaned and freshened up as necessary (paint, replace damaged/ancient items, etc)
  • Using professional photography

Where’s The Proof?

You may see staging companies or agents make claims that staged properties return an “X” percent higher sale price or sell “X” days faster than unstaged properties, but the reality is these numbers are just convenient marketing figures with no real substance.

One of the challenges with statements like these in real estate is that you don’t have the ability to isolate something like staging and compare the success or failure of the same home sale with and without it. You have to rely on the experience of your agent to help with decisions like these.

My experience with staging comes from seeing the impact it has on homes I sell, but even more so, how buyers I work with react. There is a noticeable difference in how buyers react to staged homes versus empty or cluttered homes (lived in without regard for design) and this shows up in their preferences when they’re viewing properties online to decide what they want to see and then again when they’re actually in the property.

I generally take an opportunity to point this out to my clients so they understand how much of an impact staging has on their perception of a home, so they keep it in mind when it comes time for them to sell.

I’m Here To Help

If you’re considering selling and trying to decide which investments like staging, painting, and updated appliances will return more than they cost, feel free to reach out to set-up time for me to see your home and make some suggestions.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 30, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

I hope everybody had a great Memorial Day Weekend. I enjoyed watching and hearing Rolling Thunder ride through Arlington and had some of the best brisket I’ve ever tasted at Texas Jack’s Barbecue. Thank you to all who have served and currently served our great country.

I am looking for more volunteers to be interviewed for my Arlington Neighborhood Profile series. If you love where you live and want to share your hidden secrets and passion for your neighborhood, I’d like to feature you and your neighborhood in an upcoming column. In the past, ARLnow readers have thoroughly enjoyed profiles of Claremont, Arlingtonwood, Bluemont, and Rosslyn.

Reasons you should email me:

  • You LOVE your Arlington neighborhood
  • The interview doesn’t take much time
  • You’ll get a free cup of coffee out of it
  • You’ll be Arlington-famous like Remy Munasifi
  • You choose when and where we meet

If you’re interested, please email me at [email protected]. Thanks!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 23, 2017 at 3:15 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Square footage seems randomly reported on different websites. Why is that and what is it supposed to include? Is the math on $/sqft the same across all sizes or is there a diminishing return at a certain point where more square footage doesn’t translate into more value?

Answer: Total square footage, above grade square footage, and $/sqft are some of the most common criteria and valuation metrics used in real estate, but square footage is also one of the most inconsistent data points we have. For purposes of this column, I will talk in terms of finished square footage used in real estate sales. County appraisers include unfinished space (e.g. storage, garage, decks) at a discounted rated in their tax assessment calculations.

How Is Square Footage Calculated?

I haven’t come across a published definition of how Arlington calculates finished/livable square footage, but in speaking with county tax appraisers it’s considered interior space with finished flooring and walls, and part of the home’s heating and cooling systems. I believe ceiling height (minimum 7 feet) is a factor as well. It does not include garages, decks, attics, or raw storage. It does include closets and bathrooms that are part of finished areas of the home.

Square footage is measured from the framing or exterior walls, so often times the County’s square footage is higher than the usable square footage inside the finished walls of a home.

What Do Most Websites Use?

MRIS, which is the database of record used by REALTORS and where most consumer-facing websites pull data, contains a few fields for square footage.

Taxable Living Area: Pulled from the tax record for above-grade (above ground) finished square footage. It’s a bit of a misnomer because it does not include taxable living space in the lower level(s) of a home.

Above/Below Grade Finished: This is an optional field entered by the Agent to calculate total square footage

Above/Below Grade Unfinished: This is an option field entered by the Agent and does not impact total square footage

Total Finished: Sum of above and below grade finished square footage, if entered by Agent

In my experience, most consumer-facing websites will use the total finished square footage if it’s available and default to the above-grade square footage from the tax record if it is not. Zillow seems to do the best job of pulling from multiple public data sources to get total square footage, even if the Agent hasn’t entered it into MRIS. On the other hand, Zillow allows homeowners and Agents to edit this data. Most square footage readings entered into MRIS by Agents are based on measurements between finished walls, not from the framing.

Common Data Problems

Be careful using square footage to define search criteria or for home valuations because the data can be flawed. Here are some common issues I run into:

Total square footage not entered: If an Agent doesn’t enter data for above and/or below grade finished square footage, the total square footage field is a null value.

New homes: In most cases new construction has a taxable living area in MRIS (from tax record) of zero or if it was a tear-down, it likely has the square footage of the original home which is generally much smaller.

Split Levels/Foyers: Split Levels and Split Foyers were a common design in the 1960s-1980s and usually about half of the total square footage of the home is considered lower level or below grade. In most cases, the square footage number pulled by MRIS from the tax record is only the upper level and thus only about half of the total size is automatically listed.

Additions: If a home has an unpermitted addition or the tax record was never updated, the MRIS taxable square footage will be low and unless the total square footage was entered, the extra space won’t show up.

Condos and townhomes are generally much more reliable when using square footage as a criteria/valuation factor than single family homes.

Price per Square Foot To Compare Values

$/sqft can be an effective valuation tool when you’re assured that the square footage values you’re using in your calculations are accurate and when you’re comparing properties of similar size.  For example, a 600sqft condo selling for $350,000 is nearly $600/sqft while a $2 million single family home with 6,500sqft is just over $300/sqft. Most condos trade in the $400-$700/sqft range and most single family homes trade in the $200s.

I generally avoid using $/sqft when valuing single family homes because the prevalence of inconsistent data introduces too much risk. However, $/sqft can be an effective valuation tool for condos and townhomes, especially when comparing values within the same community where fees and square footage measurements are consistent across each unit.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com. 

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We want to upgrade our home with ‘smart’ technology but aren’t sure if it makes sense since we plan to sell our home in about a year. We’d feel better about doing so if it will increase the value of our home. Will these updates get us a higher price when it’s time to sell?

Answer: I see hundreds of homes each year and I’ve noticed only a slight increase in Arlington owners and renters using smart home devices. While supply is low for homes equipped with automated technology, evidence and buyer feedback points to increased interest in these homes and a slight bump in sale price, too.

What makes a home smart?

A smart home integrates three or more Internet of Things devices to solve daily tasks through automation, often working interdependently to complete them without human assistance. These devices are usually wirelessly connected to automate, control and monitor home functions like adjusting the temperature, grilling food, warming a mattress, dimming and turning off lights, checking on a video feed of your sleeping baby and feeding your pet.

Are buyers interested in smart technology in the home?

A recent Gartner survey of consumers in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia shows 10 percent of households take advantage of connected home solutions. Reasons for the lower adoption are varied: the perceived pain of the tech learning curve, the steady influx of new devices, and IoT privacy and security concerns.

In the US, adoption rates are higher:

By far the most popular devices are home security alarm systems, which have nearly double the adoption rates (18 percent) of newer connected home solutions, like home monitoring (11 percent), home automation or energy management (9 percent)… adoption rates were 5 to 6 percent higher in the U.S., where smart home devices were mostly first marketed.

You might think that smart homes are primarily valued by Millennials, but researchers are finding that home automation broadly appeals to Millennials, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, with Gen Xers spending the most money.

Will A Smart Home Technology Investment Pay Off When It’s Time to Sell?

I have a similar answer to this question as I do with a number of other home improvement projects. Yes, a smart home investment is likely to improve value, but it’s unlikely to return you 100 percent or more of your investment. Your decision to purchase smart home technology should factor both a bump in resale value and the personal value it brings to your family while you live there.

The type of smart home technology you choose will matter too. Selecting popular products like lights, thermostats, door lock, security systems, and cameras can be highlighted during showings and are generally pretty easy to control, which result in positive buyer reactions. However, I’ve visited a few homes with complex designs and unusual products, which ended up deterring my clients because of the presumed headache and cost of maintaining the system.

Thinking about renting out your property?

Renters are very interested in smart homes and I think this is one of the best ways for home-owners to compete for renters with higher end rental apartments. Millennial renters who live in multi-family dwellings were surveyed last fall about housing preferences. Eighty-six percent would pay more for a “smart” rental.  Sixty-five percent of Baby Boomers in the same survey indicated they would do the same. Furthermore, it was revealed that Millennial renters would pay about 20 percent more for smart home features; and 44 percent would trade a parking space to live in a “high-tech” apartment.

Has Smart Home Technology Influenced Your Purchase?

I’d like to hear from readers who have either been drawn to or turned away from a home with a smart technology package. If you’ve been a buyer in recent years and smart technology was a factor in your decision, I’d like to hear about it in the comments!

If you’re interested in seeing a smart home in action, I recently took a tour of the Alarm.com demonstration house in Falls Church, just off W. Broad Street. Send me an email if you’re interested in seeing the home and I can put you in touch with somebody from the team.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How does the price range of the home for sale affect the speed of the sale?

Answer: Last week I published statistics showing how quickly homes in Arlington sell (20 percent in the first five days, 50 percent in the first 30 days) and received a follow-up question in the comments asking how price impacts days on market. Here’s your response!

Data Description

The following data represents more than 15,000 sales in Arlington since January 1, 2012, broken out by sold price within the three primary housing types in Arlington – apartments/condos, townhomes and single-family/detached homes.

Key Findings

  • The middle price ranges sell fastest, with the cheapest and most expensive inventory in each housing type taking the longest to sell
  • Townhomes are in the most demand and sell two and a half weeks faster than other housing types
  • If you’re selling an apartment or single family over $1 million, be patient with your pricing and don’t worry if you don’t get your asking price immediately. It usually takes some time for those buyers to materialize.
  • Yes, there were actually nine single-family homes that sold for under $300,000 in Arlington (eight in 22204 and one in 22206)

I always appreciate hearing from readers in the comments section and via email. If you have any questions about the Arlington real estate market, please do not hesitate to post them in the comments or send me an email to [email protected]

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — May 2, 2017 at 12:15 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m getting ready to purchase a home and have been watching the market over the last few months. I find that most homes I like go under contract quickly. How long are most homes on the market in Arlington and do you have guidance regarding offer price based on how long a home has been on the market?

Answer: Good properties move quickly in Arlington, so if you’re in the market you need to prepare to act fast when the right home hits the market. I pulled some helpful data to highlight how quickly most homes go under contract and how much they sell for relative to asking price.

Description Of Data

The following data represents all 15,200+ home sales in Arlington since January 1, 2012, broken out by the percentage of homes that sell within a range of days on the market (number of days from listing to going under contract). Within each range, I provide the average net sold price as a percentage of the original asking price (100 percent means the seller got the full ask). Not included are homes sold with zero days on market (6-7 percent of total sales) because most of those are off-market deals.

Key Findings

  • About 20 percent of homes in Arlington sell in the first five days
  • About 50 percent of homes in Arlington sell in the first 30 days
  • Be prepared to pay full price if you’re making an offer in the first 10 days of a listing
  • There is a consistent, direct correlation between days on market and how much of a discount buyers negotiate from the original asking price
  • Q1 is generally the slowest time for real estate but Q1 2017 shows a high percentage of homes being sold in the first five and 10 days. Expect these percentages to increase as the year continues.
  • Not shown: about 60 percent of homes sold in the first five days are sold on the fourth or fifth day
  • Most homes are listed on Thursday, so odds are that even a hot home will make it through the weekend

In a hot market, preparation is the most important thing buyers can do to position themselves to land a contract on the home they want. If you’re considering a purchase and would like to discuss the best ways to prepare, feel free to reach out to set-up a meeting with me. You can reach me directly at [email protected] or (703) 539-2529.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 25, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How is the Arlington real estate market looking so far this year?

Answer: Through observations in my business, conversations with colleagues and conversations with providers like lenders, title companies, inspectors and contractors, almost everybody saw a spike in business this winter, a usually slow period. After a few years of relatively flat growth in Arlington residential real estate (most of the price growth we saw in the county from 2014-2016 was attributed to tear-downs and some localized development), I think we’re finally going to see some real market-wide appreciation in 2017.

Below, I’ve compiled a series of key metrics that all support this claim. The data is broken down by housing type – detached, townhouse, and condo – and is presented by Quarter (calendar), mostly in Year Over Year changes.

Increased YoY average sold price shows mostly consistent growth over the last few quarters and a clear increase over Q1 2016.

A large increase in new pending contract in Q1 proves a substantial increase in buyer activity. Increased demand means price appreciation.

Homes in Q1 sold for .5-1 percent more relative to their original asking price, another indicator of high demand.

Homes in Q1 2017 sold much faster than they did in Q1 2016, coming close to the expected market pace during spring markets (Q2).

The housing supply has decreased by about one-third over the last two years, meaning the market is shifting further in favor of sellers.

If you’re a homeowner interested in taking advantage of a favorable market or a buyer wondering how to succeed in a competitive market, don’t hesitate to reach out to set-up a meeting. You can reach me directly at [email protected] or (703) 539-2529.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What is the likelihood that a lender will approve a loan for ~$500,000 for a first time buyer putting 10% down in a condo building that is approaching or over 50 percent units being rented out?

Answer: This question gives me another opportunity to bring in an industry expert: loan officer Jake Ryon of First Home Mortgage (NMLS #993471). Below, Jake debunks the common myth about rental ratios in condo buildings and introduces the factors that actually impact condo loans most frequently.

MYTH: Buyers Can’t Qualify For Condo Loans If More Than 50 percent of Units Are Rented

One of the most common myths that exists in the industry is that buyers cannot get a loan if more than 50 percent of units are being rented out in a condo building.

TRUTH: Most Homeowners Can Qualify For Condo Loans Regardless Of Rental Ratio

The percentage of units rented in a condo building (aka investor ratio or owner occupancy ratio) has no impact on loans for borrowers that are purchasing or refinancing their primary residence or second home.  If the borrow is an investor seeking a conventional loan, the building must have at least 50 percent of the units occupied by owners (not rented).  FHA’s requirement is the same but does not apply to second homes.  While condo associations may elect to self-impose a rental cap, as it stands now with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, it currently doesn’t impact borrowers who are purchasing or refinancing their primary residence or second home.

What Does Impact Loans On Condo Buildings?

  1. Commercial/Non-Residential Square Footage: Currently, Fannie and Freddie cap the total commercial/non-residential square footage in a building at 25 percent of the total space, up from 20 percent a few years ago.  Your lender may be able to obtain a project waiver directly from Fannie Mae if the commercial/non-residential square footage exceeds the 25 percent cap.  I was recently able to obtain a waiver for a five unit project that has 38 percent commercial space (in D.C.) because we were able to show it was common in the area, didn’t impact marketability and were able to provide several comps with similar square footage of commercial/non-residential space.
  2. Single Entity Ownership: The maximum number of units owned by one entity can’t exceed 10 percent of the units in the project per Fannie and Freddie guidelines.  If it is a 2-4 unit project (rare in Arlington, very common in DC), no entity can own more than one unit.  Both Fannie and Freddie do allow one entity to own two units in a project with 5-20 units.  A project waiver may be possible from Fannie Mae if a single entity owns greater than 10 percent.
  3. Delinquency: Fannie and Freddie do not allow more than 15 percent of the units in the Association to be > 60 days delinquent on the payment of their monthly assessments for the project to be warrantable (approved for loans).  A project waiver may be possible with Fannie Mae if the delinquency rate is slightly higher than 15 percent.
  4. Budget: Fannie and Freddie require the Association’s current year adopted budget to include a minimum of 10 percent of the annual monthly assessments to go towards the reserve fund.  If the budget does not document the required 10 percent, a current reserve study that supports the Association’s current level of contribution may be acceptable.

If you have any questions about condo warrantability or anything else loan-related, Jake Ryon can be reached at [email protected]202-448-0873 or online. He is located at 1015 15th Street NW Suite #375 Washington DC 20005.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 11, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m planning to sell my single family home in North Arlington this year and it seems that in my neighborhood, homes with great landscaping sell for top dollar. Our sale price justifies an investment in our lot, so I’m curious what the Arlington home-buyer demand from landscaping and if there are certain types of landscaping that offer the best Return on Investment.

Answer: Every spring I get a lot of landscaping questions and like to bring in my friend Jeff Minnich of Jeff Minnich Garden Designs to update Arlingtonians on what homeowners are doing in their yards and provide cost-effective tips for investing in your exterior for resale. If you’d like to continue the conversation with Jeff, you can reach him at [email protected] or 703-525-4540.

Enjoy Jeff’s expert response to this week’s question:

In Arlington, homeowners take great pride in their gardens. Our temperate climate is such that we can enjoy our gardens for the majority of the year. Over the last 15 years, there has been a trend toward extending the interior living space seamlessly into the outdoor living space–outdoor rooms, kitchens, fire pits, play areas, fencing, to name a few.  The desirability of a well-designed garden space is a solid investment, and attractive to potential Arlington homebuyers.

Most people involved in the landscape industry have seen a surge in business the last few years, as the economy recovers. This year is particularly busy.

There are really two kinds of investment in a home and garden: doing what will bring pleasure, enjoyment, and ease to day-to-day life in the home; and doing what might add value to the property, if resale is in the cards.

When preparing to sell a home in Arlington, it is important to remember that many buyers have the means and desire to put their own personal stamps on their new homes and gardens. Therefore, I always recommend concentrating on safety items, tidiness, and color.

Fix that uneven sidewalk or replace rotten wood on the deck. Fix gates. Replace the burnt out bulbs in your outdoor lighting system (lots of potential buyers drive by and have a look at night, too). Have the windows cleaned and check the exterior paint job, particularly the front door (yes, these items are part of the outdoor landscape, too). Power wash the house, sidewalks, patio, deck, driveway…make sure your hardscapes sparkle.

Weed, re-edge and mulch the planting beds. Remove old/dead shrubs and trim existing ones. Look up into your trees–does a tree or branch look dead or precarious? Have a tree professional look at it. Potential homebuyers do notice these things. Cut the grass and make sure your lawn is not full of blooming dandelions! This one item can be a big turn-off.

Finally, finish the job by adding some flowers to windowboxes, pots, and beds. Remember, you cannot take back that first impression–the outside of your home is the first thing potential buyers see before walking through the front door, and it can often make or break a sale.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — April 4, 2017 at 1:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: The best time for me to purchase a home is over the next few months, but I’ve heard from friends that the spring is highly competitive. Do you have any tips for being more competitive in the spring market without overpaying?

Answer: In a couple of weeks I’ll publish a summary of real estate data for the first quarter of 2017 in Arlington, but I can tell you that this year is off to an explosive start and the “spring market” started early. Warmer weather brings more buyers to the market and more competition over our limited housing inventory. Here are some tips on how you can improve your chances submitting a winning offer without exposing yourself to unnecessary risk or overpaying:

Take Your Time, Do Your Homework

I always tell clients that a home has two values — market value and personal value. Personal value will drive how you structure your offer and what you’re willing to pay relative to market value. Hopefully you’ve spent time over the last couple of months sharpening your criteria and understanding how it fits within your budget. If you’ve put in the right prep work upfront, you’ll be able to recognize personal value quickly and make strong offers with confidence.

Settle Faster

One way to make your offer stand out is by settling in three weeks instead of the more common 30-40 days. The settlement period is the time between the contract being signed (ratification) and the home purchase. It’s dictated by the time your lender needs to prepare your loan, so talk to your lender early on about ways to reduce your settlement period. Most sellers want to close on a property as soon as possible.

Contingencies

Most offers in Arlington include contingencies (protective terms for a buyer) for financing, appraisal and a home inspection. The shorter you can make each contingency, the more attractive your offer will look to a seller. Talk to your lender about how long they need for the financing and appraisal contingencies and don’t add unnecessary time to them.  Home inspections are valuable steps in the buying process, but also carry significant risk to the seller.

There are a number of ways to improve the “normal” 7-10 home inspection contingency to make your offer more attractive such as reducing the length of the contingency to five days with a short negotiation period, using a Pass/Fail contingency by removing the right to negotiate, making the inspection for informational purposes by removing the contingency all together (do not make this decision without considerable discussion), or getting approval from the seller to conduct a pre-inspection before making your offer.

Seller Preferences

Before making your offer, find out if the seller has any preferred terms such as a post-settlement occupancy (aka rent-back), home purchase contingency, or timing of settlement (Virginia loans should close end of month).

Watch Days on Market

The number of days a property has been on the market will help you decide how to structure your offer. You should be prepared to make your strongest offer within the first week of a listing and adjust your terms with each week a property sits.

The spring market can be a great time for buyers who are prepared for the additional competition because you’ll see a significant increase in inventory, so that illusive two bedroom + den or half-acre yard with a deck is more likely to appear. If you’re not prepared to make a strong offer, the spring can be frustrating and defeating because you may watch your dream home(s) go to other buyers who have made smarter, but not necessarily higher, offers.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m considering purchasing a new construction home in Arlington or a nearby neighborhood and have been meeting with a number of local builders to research my options. I’ve heard from quite a few that purchasing a new home often results in instant equity because they often get appraised for at least $100,000 more than the purchase price. Do you think that the higher appraisal value is an accurate reflection on the resale value of these homes?

Answer: Over the past decade, variations of large Craftsman and Arts & Crafts style homes have been replacing older homes across Arlington and Northern Virginia. Local builders have figured out a standard exterior aesthetic and interior design that buyers are willing to pay a premium for, so most new homes over the last ten years have a similar look and layout. Savvy buyers have started to question how these homes will do when they come back onto the market for resale.

Due to the fact that most buyers of $1M+ new homes plan to raise families in them for a long time, we won’t see a lot of these homes resold for a while. My guess is that we’re about 5-10 years away from really being able to answer this question, but by opening up the dataset to Arlington, McLean and Vienna, I was able to come up with enough data points to begin looking at the resale value of new homes in Northern Virginia.

The 106 data points I pulled together are for new homes built from 2007 on and resold once after the original purchase in Arlington, McLean and Vienna. I removed any foreclosures or short sales. For purposes of this analysis, I think it’s better to look at resale in all three markets combined rather than split them up and draw assumptions from minimal data.

  • On average, new homes resold for $45,585 more than what they were purchased for with an original average purchase price of $1.46M (~3 percent gain)
  • Of the 106 total data points 42 were sold within 3 years, 50 sold within 4-6 years, and 14 sold within 7-9 years
  • Homes that sold within 7-9 years of original purchase fared the worse with 57 percent (8 of 14) selling at a loss
  • Homes sold within 4-6 years have done the best, with 80 percent (40 of 50) selling for more than the purchase price
  • Two thirds of homes sold within 1-3 years sold for a gain
  • Of the 30 homes sold for a loss, the average loss was nearly $120,000
  • Of the 74 homes that sold for a gain, the average gain was nearly $114,000
  • Two homes resold for the same price they were purchased
  • 21 homes sold after three years of ownership and 18 sold after five years of ownership, these were the two most common times between sales
  • The biggest loss was nearly $665,000 and the biggest gain was nearly $400,000

It’s tough to draw any specific conclusions from this data because we’re still so early in the resale cycle for this type of new homes, but I thought it’d be fun to take a peak behind the current a bit early because it’s such a common question.

The important takeaway is that a good investment in a new home in Northern Virginia is more about making the right decision for you and your family than it is obsessing over the numbers. If you take your time, learn the market and understand the difference between builders you will put yourself in a much better position to end up on the “gains” side of the data when it’s time to resell.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 21, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’ve been renting my unit at the 1800 Wilson condos in the Rosslyn/Courthouse area for the last five years and am wondering why I used to get more rent five years ago than I do today, despite keeping the unit in great condition for each renter. Any ideas?

Answer: You may have heard that over the last five to six years, the rental market has hit all-time highs across the country, so it makes sense that you’d expect your rental income to increase. However, the increased rental demand and previously undersupplied luxury rental market in Rosslyn got the attention of some major developers, who recently built larger luxury rental buildings nearby.

Developer vs. Landlord

Landlords at 1800 Wilson and the neighboring Rosslyn/Courthouse condo buildings took a hit on rental income starting in 2013 as luxury apartment buildings Slate|Sedona, 19Nineteen Clarendon, and 2001 Clarendon added nearly 850 units to an undersupplied Rosslyn/Courthouse rental market, while offering deep discounts to new tenants in the range of one to two free months of rent (standard for new apartment buildings).

In the last year or two, each of the buildings have finished their initial leasing cycle and the incentives have expired at all three, so 1800 Wilson and other landlords in Rosslyn and Courthouse should see a small increase in rental rates.

Don’t expect a huge jump because rental supply is substantially higher now and Central Place, above the Rosslyn Metro station, just started leasing 377 luxury units. However, many of these apartments are in the ultra-luxury market and cater to a different renter than those looking at 1800 Wilson and similar buildings in the area.

Rental Trends

I built a table of rental trends in condo buildings in Rosslyn & Courthouse with comparable 1BR/1BA and 2BR/2BA units. I limited data to 1BR units w/ 650-850sqft and 2BR units w/ 900-1,350sqft to reflect the majority of 1BR and 2BR units at 1800 Wilson. “Avg Discount From Ask” is the average difference between final rental rate and original asking rental asking price.

Ask Eli comparable Rosslyn-Courthouse trends

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — March 14, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We’re a family of four, with two school age children, and considering having my parents move in with us soon. What sort of multigenerational options do you see in Arlington and how frequently do they come on the market?

Answer: The demand for multi-generational living has increased substantially nationwide over the last few years and most experts and builders expect that trend to continue. Multi-gen living is generally defined as parents living with their adult children, and their children (grandchildren). The most common multigenerational housing requests I get are for families seeking a full bedroom and bathroom on the main level and occasionally for a full second master bedroom with private bath, on any level.

Main-Level Bedrooms/Suites

Main-level bedrooms and/or master suites are increasing in popularity with homeowners and local builders because the rooms can be used for permanent multi-gen living or guests with physical limitations, but also convert easily to offices, playrooms, and libraries. The data below is current as of Friday, March 10, 2017 in Arlington, Virginia for detached homes sold with a full main-level bedroom and bathroom, not including one-level homes (e.g. ramblers and ranchers) or foreclosures/short-sales.

Ask Eli table

  • The average days on market is consistent with what you see for all detached homes in Arlington, but averaging about 1 percent more of a discount from the original asking price, suggesting sellers are either overvaluing a main-level BR/BA or there isn’t enough buyer demand
  • The average sale price reflects pricing in the most expensive Arlington zip codes for detached homes because about half of the 1,235 sold are from 22207 and 22205
  • In 2016, homes with a main-level full BR/BA made up nearly 14 percent of all detached home sales and 11.5 percent of new construction sales.

Second Master Suite

Here’s a look at the much less popular, much harder to find, second master suite in detached Arlington homes. Data is current as of Monday, March 13, 2017 and does not include foreclosures or short sales.

Ask Eli table

  • The demand for a second master bedroom is clearly low with average days on market and the percent discount from asking price well above the market average for detached home
  • Homes with a second master suite are much larger than homes with main level BR/BA, averaging about 1 more full bedroom and bathroom
  • Over half of the homes sold with a second master suite were in 22207 or 22205

Aging In Place Follow-up

In January I wrote about aging in place in Arlington and got some great responses from readers about the concept of Universal Design guidelines for updating/building a home to accommodate aging in place and programs like the Arlington Neighborhood Village. Thank you to the readers who provided that feedback!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.  

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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